And it's about time. Preferring, if anything, mostly one-dimensional or narrowly defined mobile application–related ideas over those that are vigorous or forward-thinking, HR departments industry-wide have lagged in adapting to a workforce undeniably evolving into largely a mobile workforce. But recent research, jointly conducted by VDC Research and the ADP Research Institute (ADPRI), reveals that inertia and, in some cases, outright intransigence is giving way to an embrace of mobile technology's ability to drive HR objectives.
This shift in attitudes makes sense; the sheer number of mobile workers is impossible for HR leaders to ignore. In 2010, the legions of mobile workers exceeded 1 billion worldwide and, by mid-decade, are expected to have grown by more than 10 percent, according to "Mobile HR Solutions: Connecting & Empowering Your Workforce," VDC's and ADPRI's report, comprising survey results culled in February of 2011 from 400 senior HR decision-makers in midsized organizations with 50-999 employees and large organizations with 1000 or more employees. Growth here will be yet more pronounced, with IDC forecasting that the number of mobile workers will equal 75.5 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2013, or 119.7 million workers.
Driving the move toward greater integration of HR technology with mobile technology is a general and growing sense that the benefits to HR are measurable and noteworthy. At large organizations, for instance, considerable majorities of senior HR decision-makers think HR-related mobile applications bring moderate to great benefits to employees' productivity (75 percent), satisfaction (81 percent), and ability to make decisions in real time (78 percent). Majorities remain significant at midsized organizations, too (productivity, 71 percent; satisfaction, 76 percent; and ability to make decisions in real time, 73 percent).
They're right to expect improvements in these areas, by the way. Among companies that have actually deployed mobile applications across the enterprise, 71 percent have seen improvements in workforce productivity, and 61 percent have seen improvements in their employees' ability to make decisions in real time. Additionally, 38 percent have seen their customers' issues resolved faster.
Given the growing awareness and evidence of mobile applications' applicability to HR, it's intuitive that more and more HR leaders are beginning to evaluate mobile accessibility as a component of their overall HR technology. For example, VDC and ADPRI have found that more than 70 percent of midsized organizations and more than 90 percent of large organizations either currently deploy smartphones, support employee-owned smartphones, or plan to deploy and / or evaluate smartphones. Over the last 15 months, these percentages have increased considerably. Similarly, significant percentages of the organizations that participated in the joint VDC–ADPRI research are evaluating, going to issue or already issue their own tablets and/or employee-owned tablets.
Plus, integration is on HR decision-makers' minds. Between 2011 and 2009, the percentages rose, among HR decision-makers at large and midsized organizations alike, who think it's critical or at least important to consider mobile compatibility in evaluating their next-generation HR systems and services: At large organizations it's 65 percent in 2011 vs. 49 percent in 2009, and at midsized organizations, it's 41 percent in 2011 vs. 37 percent in 2009. Additionally, over the same time span, the percentages of HR decision-makers who see value in granting employees access to their payroll and other HR data through smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices have grown.
Particularly zealous industry observers believe mobile technology will ultimately improve the entire employee lifecycle—from pre-employment (e.g. recruitment) through severance or retirement, and including everything in between—and all that is part and parcel of that (e.g. employee engagement, employment brand, etc.). And why wouldn't it? Regardless, with all the clear trends indicating that HR is embracing mobile technology en masse, a large environment to test the many hypotheses will soon exist.